#6 Villanova (14-1, 3-0 BEC) vs. Louisville (12-4 overall, 3-0 BEC), Monday 7PM, ESPN. Louisville has gotten off to a good start in Big East play with a 3-0 mark. However, don’t read too much into their record as they don’t have anything close to a signature win so far this season. Their three Big East wins have been over South Florida (+21), Providence (+22), and St. Johns (+7). Their four losses have come at the hands of out-of-conference foes UNLV (-5), Western Carolina (-8), Charlotte (-22), and Kentucky (-9). However, before ‘Nova fans start looking past this game, it is noteworthy that the game will be played in the always difficult Freedom Hall, where Louisville is 10-2 this season, including six straight wins.
For the first time in recent memory, Louisville is not ranked and is not close to the team it was last year, when they won the Big East Championship. Gone are guards Terrence Williams and Andre McGee, as well as forward Earl Clark. This season, Edgar Sosa (who has his own room in Rick Pitino's doghouse) has played effectively at the point and Samardo Samuels has done a good job of stepping up inside. Nevertheless, most believe that the 2010 Cardinals simply don’t have the talent to compete with the top echelon teams this year, and are more likely to be playing in the NIT than the Big Dance in March.
In past years, some would have given Louisville the edge in this game simply based on the reputation of Rick Pitino as head coach. Pitino, of course, is among the top-ten most winning active NCAA coaches. However, Pitino has been a distraction for his team this year since admitting in August that he had consensual sex with Karen Cunagin Sypher, the wife of Louisville equipment manager, in a Louisville restaurant.
TEAM STATS Louisville is not ranked, has an RPI of 36 and an SOS of 23. They score 80.9 points per game, shoot 45.1% from the field, dish-out 16.3 assists, and grab 41.2 rebounds. Their defense allows 67.1 points on 41.4% shooting and 33.7 rebounds.
PG: Corey Fisher (6-1, 200 lbs, Jr.) vs. Edgar Sosa (6-2, 175 lb. Sr.) Sosa is Louisville’s second leading scorer with 13.7ppg, 1.9 rpg, 4.1 apg, and 2.6 to. He shoots 47% from the field and 40% from beyond the arc.
G: Scottie Reynolds (6-2, 190 lbs, Sr.) vs. Jerry Smith (6-2, 190 lbs, Sr.) Smith scores 9.7 ppg, grabs 3.7 rpg, and shoots 41% from the field. He is not a 3-point threat, shooting 25% beyond the arc.
G/F: Reggie Redding (6-5, 205 lbs, Sr.) vs. Reginald Delk (6-5, 200 lbs, Sr.) Delk shoots well (50% from the field; 48% beyond the arc) but sparingly (6.6 ppg).
F: Corey Stokes (6-5, 220 lbs, Jr.) vs. Jared Swopshire (6-8, 220 lbs, So.) Swopshire scores 8.6 ppg on 41% shooting and grabs 6 rpg. Stokes can match his bulk, but will have problems with his length. Jay may look to start King (if he is ready to go) or Armwood for a better match-up here.
F: Antonio Pena (6-8, 235 lbs, Jr.) vs. Samardo Samuels (6-9, 260 lbs, So.) Samuels is Louisville’s top scorer (15.5 ppg) and rebounder (8.0 rpg). He plays near the basket, shooting 52% from the field. His bulk could present a match-up problem for Pena, so Mouph might get his first big chance to impress.
Bench: Louisville’s first players off the bench will be Preston Knowles, a 6-1, 190 lb guard averaging 8.5 PPG, and Terrence Jennings, a 6-10, 240 lb sophomore forward averaging 5.9 PPG.
Since 1980, Louisville has a 5-4 series advantage over the Cats. However, during the Jay Wright era, the two teams have squared off six times. Between 2006 and 2007, the Cats took three of three games. Between 2008 and 2009, Louisville won three of three. Following tht pattern, it's time for the series to tilt back in favor of the Cats.
It's never easy playing in Louisville, but this match-up ultimately favors the Cats.
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